The origin of Fort Steele can be traced to the small settlement of Galbraith's Ferry, which was born during the 1864 Kootenay gold rush. In 1888 the settlement's name was changed to Fort Steele to honour Superintendent Samuel Steele of the North West Mounted Police, who peacefully settled tensions between white settlers and the Ktunaxa people. Major mineral discoveries in the East Kootenay brought a new boom in 1897. Fort Steele became the commercial, social and administrative centre of the region while property values soared. However, in 1898, when the B.C. Southern Railway bypassed Fort Steele in favour of Cranbrook, the boom sputtered to a halt and the town soon declined into obscurity.
The Province of British Columbia acquired the site in 1961, and later began the good work of preserving and reconstructing the historic town. Today, the Province of BC, along with the Friends of Fort Steele Society, continue this good work preserving and presenting an important part of Canada's pioneering history.
Fort Steele is located on Hwy 93/95, 17 km (10 mi) northeast of Cranbrook, and east of Kimberley.
While Fort Steele had Coventry's Opera House and Fernie had Stork's Opera House, there never was a Wild Horse Theatre. The reason Fort Steele has the theatre today is that when the town was conceived of as an historic site, planners decided that a facility was needed to present turn-of-the-century entertainment. Come out for a variety of musical and comedy shows during the summer.
The Barr & Combs Blacksmith Shop, built in 1897, is operating in its original structure much as it did 108 years ago. Coal is burned in the original forge, and fanned by the original bellows. Traditional tools, materials, and techniques are used.
You can get right up close to see the craftsmen turn normal pieces of metal into beautiful and functional works of art. You could even discuss a custom project.
Demonstrations are conducted two to three times daily on a seasonal basis. The blacksmith visits one-on-one with visitors if he's not striking while the iron is hot. A selection of quality retail goods produced in the Blacksmith shop is available for purchase.
The smell of fresh baking greets visitors to Fort Steele's Lambi House, where the refined domestic skills of yesterday are alive and well.
From butter churning to canning to the creation of old-fashioned ice cream, you can practically watch your great-grandparents raise their children and conduct the routine tasks of the day that have disappeared from our lives in the outside world.
Daily activities from spring through fall include laundry, carpet beating, wood-splitting and fire stoking. The Lambi House Quilters and Antique Lace share their work with the public on Tuesdays in the summer.
Bring back a momento of your journey to Fort Steele by purchasing from the local gift shop or the Candy Store.
The gift shop is open daily and offers quality gifts and souvenirs, wearables, jewellery, old-fashioned games, books, and works by local artists.
The Candy Store sells a variety of old-fashioned candy, including caramel apples, salt water taffy, "fairy floss", and lollypops. All of the candy is bagged for you by weight and served in a traditional brown paper bag.
Take an old-fashioned photo at Riverside Photography, where visitors are provided with period costumes and can select from several backdrops and frames.
Fort Steele's resident horses serve as your mode of transport for a relaxing tour of this historical town. Featuring our giant Clydesdale draft horses, the icons of Fort Steele, our bright red passenger wagon seats 20, and runs in a continuous loop throughout the day during summer.
Held annually in August, Gold Panning Days is fun for the whole family. There are panning and other choke-cherry-spitting-log-hammerin' fun 'n games all day. Panning competitions for beginners, experts and everyone in between.